Just last week SOA Watch founder, Fr. Roy Bourgeois, and SOA Watch Partnership America Latina (PAL) Director, Lisa Sullivan arrived in La Paz, Bolivia upon invitation to accompany four men who have been struggling against impunity and injustice in Bolivia and in the U.S. since Black October in 2003. For a full report back from Lisa and more photos, click here.
Thousands Converge at the gates of Fort Benning for 20th Anniversary of November Vigil to Close the SOA
Nonviolent civil disobedience action followed by indiscriminate arrests
and targeting of journalists. Among those arrested by Columbus police
were three journalists, including unrelated bystanders.
Thousands of human rights activists, torture survivors, veterans,
faith-based communities, union workers, students, musicians and others
from across the Americas are gathered today at the gates of the U.S.
military base Fort Benning to call for the closure of the School of the
Americas (renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security
Following the SOA Watch rally, human rights activists brought their
nonviolent witness to close the SOA into the street leading onto the
military base. The activists briefly shut down the road with a large
sign that said, "Stop: This is the End of the Road for the SOA." Their
action is part of a longstanding tradition of creative civil
disobedience to call attention to the atrocities committed by graduates
of the School of the Americas. 10-12 people were arrested, and others
charged, including the 90-year old Jesuit priest Bill Brennan, and
ordained Catholic priest Janice Sevre-Duszynska.
Two human rights activists crossed onto Fort Benning through the highway
entrance. They have been charged with federal trespass and face up to
six months in federal prison and a fine up to $5,000.
When the rally participants tried to leave the vigil area, the police
blocked off all exit points. After a few minutes, the police allowed
people to leave on the sidewalk, only to follow them, indiscriminately
arresting people who had neither committed any crimes nor engaged in
civil disobedience. Among those arrested were journalists, who
were filming the police misconduct and bystanders. All arrestees are
currently being held in the Muscogee County Jail for up to a $5,500
Last week I walked out of federal prison, flew home, and was greeted by my smiling parents at the airport gate. Unlike most other prisoners, I didn’t have to take a 14 hour Greyhound bus; or use my bright red, inmate ID card; nor wear my prison clothes en route. My privilege returned to me the moment of my release. Friends picked me up and drove me to the Westin hotel for a cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream. Although it was July 11th and there was a heat wave burning through the country, I was still cold from my incarceration.
On April 16, 2012, human rights activists took to the streets around Capitol Hill in a spirited parade, culminating a week of trainings, workshops, music and lobbying to close the School of the Americas. Police on foot, bicycle, motorcycle and in vehicles prohibited free passage of the march, limiting SOA Watch activists abilities to be heard and seen by Congressional staff. Thirteen were arrested as they tried to lead the march down Independence Avenue in front of the Congressional buildings, but were impeded by dozens of police who blockaded their passage and expression of free speech.
Inside Congress, students, teachers, labor leaders and activists pressed their Representatives to cosponsor HR3368, the bill to suspend and investigate the SOA/WHINSEC. Amplify the voices of those who are meeting with their Members of Congress today, by calling your Representative's office in Washington, DC. Just call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard (the phone number is (202) 224-3121), provide the zip code of the place where you live, and the operator will connect you to your Representatives' office. Click here for a call script.
The weekend's conference, strategy sessions and concert brought organizers together around issues of de-militarization, joining the thousands in Cartagena, Colombia, who attended the People's Summit of the Americas.
We will not be silenced. Despite police censorship of our message, the movement to close the SOA/WHINSEC will continue to demand a closure of the School of Assassins and an end to militarization. Our efforts are fueled with the knowledge that we will prevail!
IMMEDIATE ACTION NEEDED! Contact the Foreign Policy Staffer in Washington DC Office of Your U.S. Rep in Congress!
We need your help! On Monday, April 28, 2014, Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-IL) began circulating a sign-on "Dear Colleague" letter in the U.S. House of Representatives to Secretary of State John Kerry addressing Human Rights and the Rule of Law in Honduras. Reps. Sam Farr (D-CA) and Farr and Hank Johnson (D-GA) have joined as initial co-signers. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) has also now joined as a co-signer. Below is a copy of the letter.
The letter states that "egregious violations of human rights continue" almost 5 years after the coup. It raises concerns about militarization of the police, and the failure to investigate or prosecute human rights abuses, including in the Aguan Valley. The letter also raises concerns about freedom of speech and associations, and questions whether the November 2013 election was not free and fair.
The letter asks State Department to:
Pay close attention to these issues and strictly evaluate U.S. support for Honduran security forces, in accordance with conditions placed on the aid in the 2014 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Act.
Fully enforce the Leahy Law, which prohibits U.S. assistance to any individual or unit that has committed gross human rights abuses and is not being brought to justice.
The deadline to sign on is Friday, May 9, 2014at 5:00 PMeastern time.
We need your help in securing the signature of your Member of the U.S. House of Representatives on this letter. Onlymembers of the House can sign the letter.
To sign on to the letter (or if the staffer wishes an official copy of the letter), your Rep’s staffer must contactAndrew Goczkowski Andrew.Goczkowski@mail.house.govin Schakowsky's office. (NOTE:please do not contactSchakowsky's staff yourself, but ask the staffer to do so).
Call the Capitol Switchboard at(202) 224-3121, give them the name of your Rep, then ask to be connected:
(If you do not know the name of your Rep, please go to http://www.house.gov/and enter in your zip code at the upper right).
When you call, ask to speak with the aide who handles Foreign Policy. Use the script below in speaking with the aide. If the aide does not recall seeing the letter, ask for the aide’s email address so that you can forward a copy of the letter.
If the foreign policy aide is not is not available, ask to leave a message on his or her voice mail. Be sure to getthe name foreign policy staffer so you can follow up.
Script: “My name is _____. I am a constituent from (town / city) in (your state). I am calling to ask Senator _____ to sign the Jan Schakowsky letter on Human Rights and the Rule of Law in Honduras. Has Representative___ seen this letter? Can I count on him/her to sign on? Please call me this week at (_your phone number_) to let me know if you have seen the letter, and if Representative _____ will sign it.”
In your phone conversation, you might highlight why this letter is important to you, especially if you have travelled to Honduras or heard a Honduran speak in your community.